The PhD Adventure…

Hooray! I’m now enrolled for my PhD – which is an exciting and daunting prospect! The provisional title for my work is “the impact of rural upbringing on graduates’ narratives of career development and migration choices”.

What I want to find out from my research is how growing up in a rural and remote place impacts on  choices about where to go to university and what to do after university.  I will be taking a case study approach and interviewing a selection of graduates from from one particular rural and remote location: Orkney (which for those of you who don’t know is a group of islands off the North coast of Scotland).

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This is my masters thesis… I think the PhD will be a bit longer!

In writing my proposal I have been heavily influenced by Ball and Higgins’ recent study into graduate migration and employment outcomes in the West of England (Ball and Higgins, 2010). In this research Ball and Higgins found that different kinds of migrant experienced quite different employment outcomes with ‘incomers’ showing some of the best employment outcomes and ‘returners’ some of the worst. During their study they identified that the migration choices of graduates may be based on a range of social, economic and personal reasons, but they concluded that further research was needed to understand the motivations of different kinds of graduate for their migration choices.

North Cornwall

I hope that my research will add to the literature on graduate migration, but in particular I would like to understand more about graduate migration from rural areas. My interest in graduate migration in rural areas comes from my experience as a careers adviser for the University of the Highlands and Islands – because we serve some of the most rural communities in the UK. It also stems from my personal experience of growing up in a rural community (North Cornwall), leaving for university, and then returning on graduation.

Some research of rural populations in Canada has suggested that success in school environments involves young people  ‘learning to leave’ rural areas for urban university environments (Corbett, 2007). In addition, research in Australia has suggested that rural students who go to university have to find a way of adjusting themselves to their urban environments, which often involves reframing their rural background (Holt, 2010).

So, it seems to me that understanding the ‘urban-rural’ dynamic may be important when considering the migration choices of graduates who have grown up in a rural area. And this is what I would like to look at in more detail during my PhD. Ultimately I hope to discover something about how growing up in a rural location may influence career and migration decisions, and potentially I will be looking for ways that the results of my research may be able to inform the careers education, information and guidance that I deliver as part of my job.

So, how’s that sound? I’d be really interested in any comments you might have about my plans!


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